Not so long ago, telling people about my IBS wasn’t something I would consider doing. Even the people closest to me barely knew what was going on. Sure, I’d been diagnosed with IBS when I was young and still under the care of my father, but it wasn’t something that everyone knew about or understood.
To most people, I had a dodgy tummy that was extra sensitive to the things around me. Some people made the connection that I’d feel sick in the lead up to big things, needing to go to the toilet to feel better. But most people had no idea because I got pretty good at covering that part of it up.
Some people knew I was ‘sick’ a lot, because there were quite a number of times I’d make excuses about not being able to go to a party or event because I was feeling unwell. But they assumed I had a bug of some sort and I rarely made the effort to correct them.
Some of the people at work knew that I got quite touchy when I was stressed out and overworked, both of which were very common occurrences as a university lecturer and researcher. Having to do public speaking on a regular basis, i.e. teaching, would wear out my body and leave me incredibly drained. Over the years I got better at dealing with it and my IBS reacted less severely, but every so often it would tip me over the edge and I’d need to step back for a day or two to let things settle.
Still, I wouldn’t talk about it openly. I’d give vague bits of information to certain people, but to everyone else I kept it quiet. I was afraid of what other people would think. I was afraid people would think I was unreliable. So I did everything I could to push through and stay reliable.
Reshaping my IBS focus
Until I couldn’t push through anymore. Until I got so run down, year after year, getting sicker and sicker each year with other illnesses because my defenses were so low, finally ending up in hospital with an unrelated illness that ‘nobody gets these days’.
That’s when I knew things had to change and I started working on the IBS triggers that I knew I had, slowly regaining control until I could manage in my job without getting ill all the time, even when giving lectures. But the amount of changes I had to make was huge and back then it simply wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to stay in the job. Then circumstances changed and my job was no longer available, but I was okay with that because I had already decided my health was more important.
The blessing of that change was that I returned my focus to nutrition and health, advanced my studies, then started my own business. All the while my IBS was the best it had been in years. Until once again it wasn’t and my IBS ground me to a halt worse than ever. But this time I had the tools to fix it… the low FODMAP diet, which when combined with my previous strategies of exercise, stress management and generally looking after myself, worked a treat.
No longer silent about IBS
During that time, I started speaking up about IBS and FODMAPs on my blog and social media. And people started reaching out to me with questions and telling me their story with IBS. That’s when I knew I needed to change my focus and should specialize in IBS and FODMAPs so that other people could get the help they needed to get their IBS back under control.
But the only way they would do that was if they knew that it wasn’t just them who was experiencing what they were. That other people experienced it too and that there was a way out.
That’s why I speak up about my IBS. I don’t want people to suffer in silence when I know there are solutions.